I was talking with a friend who teaches communication in a medical school. She’s getting on (aren’t we all?), so her dean asked her to think about who will replace her when she retires.
She hasn’t been able to identify anyone. She told me, “It seems like younger people just aren’t interested in this field.”
I concur. Four to six times annually I miss the cancer support meetings I normally facilitate because of vacation or illness. In past years competent substitutes like colleagues or their interns were always available to fill in. This year I really had to scramble. There are no more interns, and most of my colleagues were overbooked, tired, and, I realized, past middle age.
The younger psychologists I know who work in hospitals are fully absorbed in issues of diagnosis and medication. They seem to have little or no expertise or even interest in normal communication. It’s as though only a single generation--we 1960s hippies--was touched by the significance of deep contact. What’s to become of this craft?
Maybe I’m missing something. It could be that the emotional aspects of illness are being addressed by some other department. Maybe standard medical practitioners like docs and nurses are finally becoming as compassionate as we’d like. Or maybe social workers finally have adequate time to sit with patients and their families. I just don’t see much of that yet.
So help me out here. What do you see? When I and my ilk shuffle off this mortal coil, what will the experience of sick people be like?